Siliconera had a chance to attend a talk by Tales of Xillia 2 and Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World character designer Daigo Okumura about the design of the Tales of Xillia games.
Okumura started his presentation by talking about how Tales of Xillia’s graphic style was something of a departure from the previous Tales games. While Tales of Vesperia’s cel-shading looked good, it made interesting, complex character design hard to do. Okumura wanted to switch to the new style to capture more detail and make characters look more like their original illustrations.
Cel-shading also tended to made characters look smaller, again increasing the gap between concept art and in-game appearance so Okumura recommended the new approach. While the Tales of Studio believed that the shorter characters were better from a game design perspective, Okumura convinced them from that from an illustrator standpoint, the new style was better. He eventually put together character models of characters from previous Tales games in both styles, and that won them over.
Naturally, as the approach to character models changed, the team needed to adjust the backgrounds to give the game a proper sense of scale, which Okumura felt the series had some trouble conveying in earlier games. He put together background sketches that were just meant to be internal references, but his art was made public when the game was announced (wayyyy back in August 2010). Since the art wasn’t final, he says he was rather embarrassed at the time.
While Kousuke Fujishima and Mutsumi Inomata are the character designers for Tales of Xillia, the development team is in charge of choosing character colors. Their goal was to establish character relationships through their color combinations. For instance, Milla and Jude were given contrasting color schemes (red and white and blue and black, respectively) to express how different they were as main characters. Similarly, rival characters Gaius (black and red) and Muzet (white and blue) also contrast each other, but those color combinations give them a different feel than Milla and Jude.
The red makes both Gaius and Milla look strong, but the black and white help establish their characters as different from each other.
Okumura then talked to us about his design process for Ludger in Tales of Xillia 2. Early designs had him looking more like a salaryman or sort of generic employee—”like someone who would have a hard time getting a job,” Okumura joked. The first design didn’t stand out to him that much, so he tried to add prettier, more detailed components to Ludger’s design. However, the development team preferred the original, more down-to-earth design, so that led to the Ludger we see today.
Okumura is still a little bit upset with Ludger’s design, wanting something a bit flashier. One of his friends even told him Ludger looks a bit like an NPC. After working on the Tales series for 10 years, however, Okumura joked that was excited to finally be able to design the main characters of a mothership Tales game, only to be disappointed when he learned that Ludger wouldn’t speak and Elle wouldn’t fight.
Finally, Okumura added that while it was an honor to have worked with amazing artists like Kousuke Fujishima and Mutsumi Inomata over the past 10 years, he hoped that one day he’d be able to do the character designs for an entire game on his own.